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Tackle, QB give offense two for the road

Posted Apr 28, 2012

It took until the last two picks of the three-day draft, but the Packers finally turned their attention to the offensive side of the ball.

With their last two picks, both compensatory selections in the seventh round, the Packers drafted offensive tackle Andrew Datko from Florida State (No. 241) and quarterback B.J. Coleman from Tennessee-Chattanooga (No. 243).

Both players are coming off senior seasons marred by shoulder injuries. Datko, 6-6, 321, and a starter since his true freshman season, played just four games in 2011 before being forced to sit out the remainder of the year. Coleman missed five games in the middle of last season and came back to play one final college game.

Datko’s injury history is more extensive. He said his shoulder first popped out of place during summer camp prior to his junior season. He began the season in the starting lineup, sat out three games when the shoulder was giving him trouble, returned to play the rest of the year and then had postseason surgery.

The following summer, his shoulder still wasn’t feeling right and he tried to play through it but was ultimately shut down four games in to have arthroscopic surgery. Datko knew the whole ordeal would hurt his prospects for the draft, but he said he didn’t consider throwing in the towel, not after 40 collegiate starts at a premium position like left tackle.

“Never,” he said. “Injuries are part of football, and when you fight through them, it makes you a tougher person. You fight through adversity and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

With Chad Clifton being released this past Monday, Datko has a chance to earn a spot on the depth chart at tackle. Bryan Bulaga, Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod are the Packers’ top three tackles, with Sherrod coming back from a surgically repaired broken leg. McCarthy said he’s been told Sherrod should be ready for training camp.

Datko says his shoulder is 100 percent now, and he has returned to his previous strength levels in the weight room. After arthroscopic surgery in November, he got back to weightlifting in January.

“You get to a point in the draft where you take a chance medically, because that is part of your decision-making,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think he’ll be a nice fit in our offensive line.

“He would have had a lot higher grade if it wasn’t for his shoulder. He’s smart, tough. Everybody is excited about him.”

Perhaps no one was more excited to be drafted by the Packers than Coleman, who was originally a Tennessee recruit but after one season transferred to Chattanooga, where his father played and his brother still does.

Coleman, 6-3, 222, likened the course change to improvising as a quarterback when the called play goes awry. His enthusiasm for the game and for coming to Green Bay was tough to repress when the Packers called.

“He was clearly the most excited young man on the phone of the eight,” McCarthy said, referring to the total number in the Packers’ 2012 draft class. “He told me this was the best pick we’ve ever made in Green Bay. I said we’ve had some pretty good quarterbacks here.”

One of those Coleman already knows. Sharing an agent with Brett Favre, Coleman spent time this past winter working out with Favre once or twice a week in Mississippi. Coleman said he had around 8-10 throwing sessions with Favre, and he was grateful for the experience.

“Every second I was with him, you could learn something new,” Coleman said. “From the mental aspect of the game, picking up coverages, subtle things.”

A three-year starter at Chattanooga, Coleman joins Graham Harrell and former indoor player Nick Hill in Green Bay’s developmental QB group. Barring another acquisition between now and the start of the season, Aaron Rodgers’ backup in 2012 will be a young, unproven player, but that doesn’t seem to bother McCarthy.

“I don’t think you just say, ‘Hey, I need a veteran backup,’” McCarthy said. “We have the MVP in Aaron Rodgers as our No. 1, and now we feel like we have three really good candidates to compete for two spots or possibly three. The roster will shake that out. It’s our job as coaches to make sure they’re trained and ready to go, regardless of how much experience they have.”

Coleman is well aware of McCarthy’s reputation for developing quarterbacks and is more than willing to put his trust in him. Like all of the draft picks, Coleman will take part in the Packers’ rookie orientation weekend in two weeks and then stick around through the rest of the offseason program in May and June, which includes OTAs and a mandatory mini-camp.

“I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m a guy that’s excited about the process,” Coleman said. “I’ve got a lot to learn mentally and physically, but with a guy like (McCarthy), I believe I can do as much as I’ll be willing to work. It will be a lot of fun. I look forward to it.”

That feeling is mutual.

“He’s a very anxious young man,” McCarthy said. “His skill set is something we were really intrigued by and we want to develop.”

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